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Sunday, 19 May 2019 10:31 pm

Found in translation – a korero about languages in Aotearoa

Nov 19th, 2015 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Featured Article, Front Page Layout, Most Popular, Newsroom Blog

IN THE same way Maui’s fishing hook reeled in this mountainous little country, or Abel Tasman’s expedition to the Pacific exposed it to the world, my look at Aotearoa’s language dynamics has been just as revealing.

Well perhaps that’s an exaggeration, it’s probably more akin to hooking on to an undersized snapper from a rusty dinghy in the Firth of Thames. However you label it, it’s been my journey which has come with its own set of bait and tackle issues.Beached dinghy

Before I put fingers to keys I already had an opinion on the subject. It’s something I had discussed around the water cooler, and in modern times on Stuff chat forums, however mine was not an informed opinion.

I had no knowledge of Maori language statistics, no knowledge of bilingual advantages or disadvantages, nor did I know what the New Zealand government was doing to promote Te Reo within our society. I wanted to look at the issue from a neutral perspective but also not be afraid to allow my own personality to come through in my writing.

Once my topic was authorised by Whitireia top brass, I asked Google to alert me to new information on bilingual and Te Reo related issues. Whilst the stream of this information was steady, I quickly found there to be too much information.

The first four or five posts I used the google alerts to form the basis of my posts and often they would take me on a quest to look for different information that would not have been picked up by my alert feed. I did continually revamp my alerts with different words but I found that clogged my email up even more and discouraged me from looking at them, just due to sheer volume.

I narrowed my search criteria and whichever direction I thought my next blog entry was going, I would adopt my alerts accordingly. With future blogs I will not be adopting this approach as the time spent researching a new post was counterproductive.

Once I began I found myself starting with language as a whole. The statistics surrounding vulnerable languages was a little alarming, United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) estimate half of 6000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century.

I was even more aghast when reading a prediction from a prominent US linguist who stunned the academic world by predicting that by the year 2100, 90% of the world’s languages would have ceased to exist.

After reading that UNESCO declared with the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity would lose not only a cultural wealth but also important ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages, it made me concerned for Te Reo Maori.

The stats for Maori speakers did not make great reading and without a focused effort it was easy to see why UNESCO listed Maori as vulnerable. According to theNew Zealand 2013 census, only 21% of Maori have some grasp of the language, a 4% drop since 2001. By my rudimentary math that equated to about 80,000 people in the world who can speak some level of Maori. Approximately 0.000001% of the earth’s 7.1 billion people. Small fish.

While I was sure we wouldn’t get into the sort of strife that happened to the last two fluent speakers of the Mexican language Ayapaneco – when in 2011 they were no longer speaking to each other – I started to scowl and reach for my taiaha (my favourite blue biro) as I thought my worst fears had been realised.


(Photo credit: Boy)

My war path continued with the notion that New Zealand should be bilingual. The advantages of a human being having two languages to communicate with had huge upsides, particularly health benefits which I had not known before.

Studies have found that being able to speak two or more languages aids the cognitive process. The brains of bilingual people operate differently than single language speakers, and these differences offer several mental benefits. Such as warding off the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Besides the obvious benefits, it was apparent to me that no one else in the world was going to invest in the language and I thought New Zealand was missing a trick. Turns out it was me who was missing something.

While I still think Maori should be compulsory and taught up until high school, there is a lot of work going on to bring Te Reo into the mainstream. Maoridom and the New Zealand Government identified its vulnerability and have taken on the task of protecting and promoting the language, ensuring there is a connected and cohesive approach to education contributions that support and strengthen the Māori language.

As at 1 July 2014 there were 17,713 students enrolled in Māori medium education, representing 2.3% of the total school population.

Maori Language week, Maori TV, an increased number of Maori role models were all helping to bring the language into the mainstream and being funded and driven at Iwi and government level.

With technology reaching a wider audience, and Maori embracing that technology, it’s been fantastic to discover the use of Maori in these forums. Bringing it out of the marae and into the consciousness of society.

However while technology is aiding a Te Reo resurgence, it is also a potential language killer. With advances happening every day and communication predominantly going through some form of electronic median, language skills are not as neckeep-calm-and-be-bilingual-2essary as they once were.

I found the statistics on electronic communication fascinating. The work by technology giants Microsoft, Google, and the like, is improving so rapidly at times you do not recognise the advance until it’s already a part of daily life. The language tools these giants are building within their technology are helping us to communicate more, but it is also reducing our need to learn or care about other languages.

Microsoft is in the final stages of making real time translation accessible to the masses. According to Skype, more than 300 million connections use more than 2 billion minutes of conversation a day, breaking down communications barriers by delivering voice and video across a number of devices. They have seen language as a blocker to productivity and human connection.

This prompted me to start practicing what I preach, I signed up to learn Maori and have been at it for over a month. It was not ever my intention to jump aboard my own ship however I’m glad I have. I’m proud to be learning Maori.

After writing this blog I feel Te Reo is in safe hands. I’m not sure it will ever be a second language that kiwis are fluent in but compared to our Australian cousins we are in a much better state. Something which has not gone unnoticed by the common Aussie blogger.

With technology moving at such a fast rate, most people won’t have the time to learn a second language, or the easier option will be available through technology and be a more logical choice. However I would hope a harmonious fusion of language and technology will exist.

Within a generation the language should no longer be officially vulnerable. New Zealand should be proud of the effort and I hope my blog, and my subsequent language choices, will go some way in supporting that.

E noho rā.

To read further posts of Brad’s blog, please click here.

FIFA World Cup as it happened – LIVE BLOG

Jul 14th, 2014 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, Most Popular, News, Newsroom Blog, Sport
TENSE SUPPORTS:  A group of German supporters who managed to get a table at the packed and rowdy GRAND HOTEL  in Courtenay Place this morning for the FIFA World Cup final.

TENSE SUPPORTS: A group of German supporters who managed to get a table at the packed and rowdy GRAND in Courtenay Place this morning for the FIFA World Cup final.

This is a live blog – please refresh your page for the latest.



German fan celebrating

After game reaction: Proud to be German


After game reaction: A devastated Argentinian fan.

After game reaction: A devastated Argentinian fan.


It was mostly quiet on the second floor of The Grand as Germany was confirmed as the 2014 Football World Cup champions.

The Argentina crowd, once the loudest and most boisterous were quiet, reserved and a few were even reduced to tears as the final whistle blew.

Aqil Mosawi says although he is disappointed to see his team come second best, he isn’t shocked by the result.

“They’re both great teams who deserved to be there and it was a good game,” he says.

Staff at The Grand say there was a definite change in atmosphere from start to finish although everyone is still cheering and celebrating a great match.

They say there is now a number of fans coming to the bar for a well needed coffee hit after a morning of excitement.


Man of the match: Bastien Schweinsteiger.  The midfield general bossed the middle of the park, he showed grit and determination despite his knock-downs.  Even a cut to the face didn’t keep him down, no man deserves the trophy more than he does.

Golden Boot: James Rodriguez.  The Colombian playmaker has been the break-out player of this World Cup campaign.  Remember the name…

Golden Glove: Manuel Neuer.  No doubts about this one, Neuer has been ever-present for the undefeated Germans.  His role as a sweeper-keeper has been vital.

Golden Ball: Lionel Messi.The four-time Ballon d’Or winner led Argentina to the final of the tournament.  Awarding “player of the tournament” to Messi is debatable for many.



TV1 commentators say Germany has spent $1.4 billion over the past two years to develop this team because local players were not coming through to its top Bundeslegia competition. They say the English are looking at the same system because of the dwindling local numbers in the English Premier League.


The HERO: Mario Götze will go down in German football folklore.  Chest, volley, goal!  The little man will go to bed visualising that moment every night for the rest of his life. 


At The Grand the German ambassador says she is absolutely elated by her team’s win.

The German fans are in celebration mode although now that time has finally been called people are already rushing back to work.

The Argentinian fans are noble in defeat, refusing to let their spirits sink too low.


Germany are the world champions of football! The first ever European team to win the Holy Grail on South American soil.  24 years of pain are over, this could be the beginning of a German dynasty.  Football is the true winner, we have been treated to a magnificent World Cup tournament. 



120+3 mins: A horrendous free-kick by Messi, that was his moment. 


120+2 mins: Schweinsteiger takes down Messi.  It’s now or it’s never!  Messi lines up the free-kick… 


120 mins: Final sub for Germany.  Giant centre-back Mertesacker is on for attacking-midfielder Ozil.  That surely has to be it, 2 minutes added on.


120 mins: Last chance now for Argentina.  It doesn’t look likely for them, they’ve only had one shot on target in two hours of play.


Absolute jubilation from German supporters at The Grand.

The fans rise as one to cheer and wave their flags as a goal is finally scored.

The Brazilian ambassador Eduardo Gradilone has already shaken his German counterpart’s hand in congratulations.

Argentinian fans try to keep their spirits up, increasing the volume of their chants.

An Argentina supporter at the Bruhaus also remains hopeful as the bar erupts in cheers around him, “Don’t speak yet. Messi’s still out there.”

The predominantly German crowd at J J Murphy’s is ecstatic.

9:30am: 117 mins: Palacio leaps high with a towering header gone just over the bar. 

9:28am: Mario Götze chests down a cross from Schürrle in the box unmarked, he volleys the ball past the helpless goalkeeper on his left-foot.  He struck it so sweet with finesse and power.  The Germans have gone wild in Rio!  Surely that’s it now, Germany just have to shut up shop for 5 minutes.

Can the magician Messi step up?


112 mins: Schweinsteiger back on with stitches.  No doubt he’ll be a key penalty candidate. 


111 mins: No repeat of the 7-1 in the Germany semi-final. The managers will be penning down their designated penalty-takers. 


109 mins: Schweinstiger fouled again, this time is struck in the face by Aguero during an aerial battle.  The German midfield has been forced to leave the field due to blood flow from the wound. 


The Bruhaus crowd cringes as Schweinsteigers injury is replayed.


The chatter has died down at Bruhaus as fans try to will their teams to victory in extra time and avoid a penalty shoot out.



HT/ET (Half Time/Extra Time): The physio’s role is important now.  Ensuring players don’t get cramp can be vital for these final 15 minutes of open play. 


105 mins: Half-time of extra-time is nearing.  You can cut the tension in the stadium with a knife. 



Over at The Grand there seems to be less of an appetite for a penalty shoot.

The crowd is anxiously waiting for a goal with Argentinian fans quietly hopeful that the match will be theirs.
Crowds around the city react passionately to Argentina’s near miss at a goal, German fans at JJ Murphy’s cheer with relief as it misses the net.


100 mins: Hummels can barely run.  A possible target for the Argentinian attack? 


97mins: Palacio had a chance on a plate, chested it and chipped Neuer, but it went agonisingly wide. 


96 mins: Without doubt, Germany have enjoyed more possession and more shots so far.  However, it is the scoreline that matters in the end. 


The mood at CBD bars The Green Man and Bruhaus is getting tense and the crowds are getting louder as the game goes into over time.

Most are anticipating a penalty shoot out and German fans feel confident that this would see them come out on top.


93 mins: Germany have come out with sense of urgency.  Perhaps they don’t fancy penalties? 


91 mins: Romero saves a blistering shot from Schürrle.


Extra-time it is! Full-time analysis – This game definitely deserved goals, a great 0-0 for neutrals.  Tensions are running high, legs are sore, mindsets will tire in the heat of Rio.  Both sides cautious not to concede rather than go in for the kill.  The 2010 World Cup Final was won in the 116th minute by Spain’s Andrés Iniesta.  It’s not over yet, people! 


90+3 mins: More end-to-end stuff is broken up – once again – by solid defending.  Last chance now before the referee blows for the end of the ninety.


90+1 mins: Götze shoots from distance but his shot was weak. 

At JJ Murphy & Co, German and Argentinian fans alike show their appreciation for Miroslav Klose, cheering as he leaves the pitch. 


88 mins: Hats off to World Cup legend Miroslav Klose.  He closes his record goal tally at 16 goals.  Off he comes to a standing ovation, he is replaced by playmaker Mario Götze. 


86 mins: Argentina use up all their subs.  Fernando Gago on for Enzo Pérez.  A more defensive-minded midfielder, are Argentina holding out for penalties? 


85 mins: Five minutes to go (plus stoppage time).  A goal now will surely kill off the game.  Edgy stuff, extra time is on definitely on the cards… 


81 mins: Kroos with a lackluster shot from just outside the area.  He didn’t connect with that one cleanly, he’ll be disappointed. 


80 mins: Soft penalty shout for Germany, Müller wasn’t exactly mullered, but was knocked over by Mascherano in the box.  No penalty. 


77 mins: Argentina make a sub, a striker for a striker.  Rodrigo Palacio on for Gonzalo Higuain, the man who thought he had scored. 



Staff at The Grand are thrilled to have the German and Argentine embassies at their bar to watch the final this morning. 

Andy Edwards, bar staff member, says having the ambassadors there adds to the atmosphere.
“But for me, it means I have to wake up super early,” he says.


75 mins: Messi orchestrates an long-range shot for himself, the Germans were back in numbers and did enough to put him off. 


The mood at the Green Man Pub and Bruhaus is tense, although who is supporting who is unclear.

The crowd is silent and mainly in business attire as they watch the match.


El Matador owner Mike Marsland is impressed with the passion of Argentinian fans, “they make All Black supporters look like wimps,” he says. 

He believes the Argentinians have been denied a goal, saying that at the last World Cup it would have been allowed.


70 mins: Nice teamwork from Germany, good one-touch passes, but a poor cross from Höwedes on his weaker foot.  If only Germany had a natural left-back.


64 mins: This game is getting feisty.  A yellow card for Mascherano for a terrible tackle, and a yellow for Aguero for another offence.  8:25am: 62 mins: Half-time substitute Aguero hustles Hummels to win a corner. 


BBC Sport Chief Football Writer Phil McNulty at the Maracana:

“The two coaches are an interesting study in body language. Germany’s Joachim Low is an upright figure, shirtsleeves rolled up and looking relatively calm. Argentina’s Alejandro Sabella is pacing his technical area, animated and often stooping with his hands on his knees, almost as if he is tempted to get on and join his players. Sabella never looks relaxed.” – via the BBC  


59 mins: Klose rises for a header but is unable to direct it with any conviction. 


Live Radio Update: 


57 mins: Neuer rushes out to punch to ball away from Higuian, completely taking out the striker in the process.  The Argentinians are furious, ref says not a foul. 


54 mins: Schürrle tripped outside the box, referee played advantage and deemed the subsequent cleared German cross as sufficient advantage to Schürrle‘s dismay. 


51 mins: The Brazilians in the crowd are clearly supporting the Germans.  Argentina winning the World Cup in Brazil will only add salt to the wound after a poor outing in the semi-finals and 3rd place playoff.


STARTING YOUNG: Wibke Kreft with five weeks old Moritz Dümlein in a German shirt. Note the German colours on Wibke’s nails.

STARTING YOUNG: Wibke Kreft with five weeks old Moritz Dümlein in a German shirt. Note the German colours on Wibke’s nails.


The German Ambassador, Dr. Anne-Marie Schleich, says that the match could go either way.

Despite Germany’s trouncing of Brazil last week, she believes anything could happen between now and full time.

Argentinian fans at El Matador agree, describing the match as being on a knife edge.

The crowd is anxious and tense with many pinning their hopes on Lionel Messi to lead Argentina to victory.



8:10am: There has only ever been one entirely goalless World Cup Final, that was Brazil vs Italy in USA ’94.

8:09am: 47 mins: Messi misplaces his shot just wide of the post.  You’d expect the four-time Ballon d’Or winner to hit the target from there.


Reporters at The Grand say confidence seems to be dwindling coming into the second half.

Rocio Alvarez, a traveller from Mendoza, Argentina, says “We’re doing okay, I just hope we can hold on. But I’m not so sure.”


Separate territories are being formed at The Grand in Wellington as football fans band together for the second half of the World Cup Final.

Argentinian fans draped in flags and face paint are staking their territory on the second floor while the Germans remain composed on the first floor, eating their breakfast and making little noise.

Any attempt at blending from the Germans is shot down by Argentinian fans who are determined to maintain an exclusive party of blue and white.


There is an atmosphere of friendly rivalry at The Grand as the score remains nil all at half time. 

German and Argentinian fans sit side by side although there are clear cultural divides in their spectatorship styles.

German fans remain reserved until the ball gets near the goal while the Argentinian crowd dominates the atmosphere with singing and chanting.


From the BBC:

© BBC - Andre Schurrle has 3 sub goals for Germany at World Cup 2014

© BBC – Andre Schurrle has 3 sub goals for Germany at World Cup 2014 (via BBC SPORT)

Half time:

Half-time reflection: End-to-end action, supporters have not been short-changed here at the Estádio do MaracanãRio de Janeiro, only thing missing in this game are goals.  Both sides have turned up very well organised, it hasn’t been a boring 0-0 by any means!  It will take a moment of brilliance to open the scoring… 


Here’s some pics from Brazil!


At The Grand – Confidence seems to be taking a beating as it nears half time.

Argentinians rejoice at the Germans missed goal opportunity.

7: 49am: 

45+2 mins: A glorious opportunity for Germany to take the lead right before half-time.  A corner meets the head of Höwedes, who’s powerful header smacks off the post into the offside Müller 7:47am:

German family

GO GERMANY: It was all Germany in the Miramar home of the Kreft family, from left, grandmother Margot Kreft-Kötter, Wibke Kreft, Georg Dümlein, baby Moritz Dümlein, Steffen Kreft, Konrad Kreft (3), and lone Kiwi William Connor.


45 mins: Two minutes of additional time added.  Neither side have a natural left-back, clearly both teams are attacking each other down that weak side. 


44 mins: Müller whips in a cross from German right side, target-man Klose couldn’t quite get there.


Carla Ramos, a traveler from Argentina, says “we have to win, there’s no other way. Football is in our blood”

German fans are remaining composed and staring intensely at the screen throughout the ordeal while Argentinians remain boisterous and rowdy.
43 mins: Weak shot from Kroos.  Romero cuddles the ball with ease. 


40 mins: German supporters are on edge, nervy stuff as Argentina are really getting into the game.  Another mazy run by Messi required some desperate defending by the Germans. 


37 mins: Schürrle puts his stamp on the game with a bullet-shot saved by Romero.  The flag was up for offside, it wouldn’t have counted. 


The crowd at El Matador is getting into the swing of things as Argentina comes close to scoring once again. Disappointment follows cheering as the ball comes close but goes out of play.


Cuba Street’s El Matador is packed with more than 50 Argentinian fans enjoying coffee and pastries while they stare, transfixed, on the restaurant’s one small screen.

The mostly young crowd is dressed casually with only a few in team colours. The mood is so far relaxed but lively.

Meanwhile at The Grand the mood is tense, with much Spanish cussing coming from the Argentinian camp. Fans’ heads are in their hands as Argentina is denied not one but two goals.


36 mins:  Messi runs at the German defence, he had options either side of him but failed to find the needle in the haystack. 


31 mins: A dream start for Kramer has been shattered.  Injury has forced the youngster to be subbed off.  Super-sub André Schürrle is on in place.  A holding-midfielder off for an attacking winger, an interesting move by manager Joachim Löw


Argentinian fans at The Grand, Wellington are jumping, clapping and even jumping on tables as Argentina comes close to scoring the first goal. 


30 mins: DISALLOWED GOAL!  Gonzalo Higuain coolly slots in a cross from Lavezzi.  The crowd goes wild, but the assistant’s flag is raised.  Higuain was clearly offside.


28 mins: Klose streches for the ball from a cross, but is offside.


7 hours of playing time since Argentina have conceded a goal, an impeccably drilled defence.  What happens when the unstoppable force meets an immovable object?


21 mins: Higuain gifted a one-on-one opportunity after a poor back-pass from Kroos.  He scuppered the shot wide.  Best chance of the game by country mile!   


17 mins: Unexpected starter Christoph Kramer, goes down after a collision with Garay.  After treatment, he is fine to continue. 



15 mins: Germany enjoying most of the ball so far, Argentina looking to get chances against the run of play.  An open game, neither team holding out for penalties.  There will be goals, folks!


13 mins: Delightful cross placed in by Lahm, inviting Klose but he couldn’t quite make it.


9 mins: Lionel Messi shows what a danger he can be, bursting past Hummels but had his cross cleared. 


4 mins: Higuain’s attempt on goal goes wide after Argentina’s counter-attack from the free-kick.


3 mins in: Rojo fouls Muller, free-kick 30 years from goal.  Schweinsteiger’s shot blocked by the wall.

At the Grand, Argentinian fan Peter Khontyngkut says football is taking over traditional sports in places such as the US.

“Football is getting more popular in the USA, the number of the public who watched it in the last few years has exceeded the number watching the world series in the USA”.


“After 63 games, which have featured 170 goals, 10 red cards, four penalty shootouts and one bite, Argentina meet Germany in the World Cup final at the Maracana.”  – ESPN


The doors have opened at Wellington’s Grand on Courtenay place and the World Cup party is underway.

Both the German ambassador and Argentina’s deputy ambassador are leading their country’s support groups who have gathered to watch the final live.

At this point, the Argentinian contingent is making its presence felt in true argentine style with about 70 supporters chanting loudly in Spanish, “ole ole ola, cada dia te amo mas”.




Nominees for the Golden Ball (best player) are in!

From Argentina we have Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, and Javier Mascherano. From Germany its Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos, Phillip Lahm, and Thomas Muller.


Race for Golden Boot (top scorer):

  • Müller needs just one goal to overtake Colombia’s Rodriguez
  • Messi can take the prize with a hat-trick or two goals and at least one assist


The Maracana stadium now:

Brazilian stadium

via Snapchat


The teams are in! Welcome to the 2014 World Cup Final! We’re all in a buzz in the newsroom! We’ll bring you the action and excitement! We may be far from Rio, but we’ll bring you the action from Wellington, from its pubs to its streets.

The 2014 line up (Captains in bold) –

Germany has: Neuer, Howedes, Hummels, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Klose, Muller, Lahm, Kroos, Boateng.

Argentina: Romero, Garay, Zabaleta, Biglia, Perez, Higuain, Messi, Mascherano, Demichelis, Rojo, Lavezzi.


The NewsWire team kicks off online coverage of the FIFA World Cup final, following mainstream and social media coverage of the even.

Absolutely positively growing – Census VINES

Dec 4th, 2013 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Multimedia, Newsroom Blog, Top Picture

by Sam Duff, Bethany Pearson, Lauren Hertzberg,  Paul Ordish and Oren Oaariki 

WELLINGTONIANS are more educated, earning more and have greater access to internet than in 2006, according to the latest census results. 

The number of those in the city who hold a bachelors degree or above has risen 4 percentage points – with 25 per cent of the local population now university educated.

Earning a larger income become more common, with more than 32,000 people earning  over $100,000 per year – a 73% increase.

Almost 30 per cent more people have access to the internet, rising from 10,5549 in 2006 to 13,6011 in 2013.

Amongst an ageing population, it is men who appear to be living longer, with almost double the amount of those over eighty years old male.

Cover Photo: Wiki Commons

Why I love My Chem

Feb 12th, 2010 | By | Category: Arts/Entertainment, Featured Article, Front Page Layout, Newsroom Blog


Gerard Way’s voice has gone, so his band, My Chemical Romance, has cancelled four concerts in Australia. KYLIE KLEIN-NIXON tells why this is important:

OK, SO let’s get this out of the way first:  I’m 37 years old and I love teen-rock idols My Chemical Romance.

I don’t just mean I like to listen to My Chemical Romance a bit and think they’re neat.  I mean I love them.  L-O-V-E.  Pure, unconditional, unadulterated love.

Laugh all you want, roll your eyes, wince, grimace, whatever.  I don’t care.

You know why?  Because My Chemical Romance are the greatest band in the world.  Fact.

It’s ok, I’m a professional.  I’m not just going to throw that out there without proof, and I’m not just referring to the fact this band has turned a rational, grown woman into a quivering pile of Fangirl goop.

I have cold, hard, irrefutable scientific proof in the form of points out of 100 that My Chem rule.  Check it out:

1. New Jersey

1a. My Chem come from Belleville, New Jersey, on the eastern seaboard of the USA.

You know who else comes from there?  Frankie Valli, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Glenn Danzig.  That’s the kind of musical lineage my boys come down from. 10 points

2083803710_58dec1cafb1b. Now, as everyone knows, New Jersey is a dump run by the Mob.  In the Jerz, if you are not careful you are likely to wind up at the bottom of some river wearing concrete shoes.  (I’ve watched the Sopranos, I know stuff.)  So basically, anyone who not only survives growing up there without getting on the wrong side of Il Don, but actually makes it out of there alive and gets on the front cover of AP magazine while they’re at it, deserves a prize.  In this case it’s 10 points.

2. Teenage Girls

A lot of people say that bands with predominantly teenage girl followings are dross.  To these people I say: “Pshaw!  You clearly do not know your musical history.”

If the number of teenage girls lying in their bedrooms of an evening scrawling the lead singer of your band’s last name after their own directly corresponds to your band’s drossness, then Paul McCartney would never have gotten a knighthood and Keith Richards would never have gotten that bit part in Pirates of the Caribbean. (see also: Duran Duran and the current 80s revival)

No, the number of teenage girls who would happily tear your lead singer limb from limb and/or collapse in a fit of hysterical crying if your bassist smiled at them is actually an accurate barometer for future iconic status.

A quick head count of the 1.5 trillion teenage girls posting on My Chem’s web site on a daily basis only means one thing: 20 points.

3. The Daily Mail

2100596957_6774a7bf4dUK “newspaper” the Daily Mail prints exploitative, ill-informed baloney about My Chemical Romance’s part in the suicide of a teenage girl. Lead singer Gerard Way incites 35,000 people to yell “F*** the Daily Mail!”  A video of it is posted on YouTube.  50 Points

4. Concept Album

4a. You try doing a concept album about cancer (The Black Parade, 2006) that far from being a maudlin pile of woe on toast is in fact a musical celebration of everything that is awe inspiring about life and love and dying.  And get Liza Minelli to sing on it.  Go on.  10 points

4b.Not many bands can wear a concept album without looking like a bunch of self satisfied dorks.  My Chem not only wore theirs, touring it for almost one and a half years, they bejewelled the bejaysus out of that thing.  135 shows in 42 countries. 10 points

5. Injuries2082999021_7519603994

My Chem drummer Bob Bryar once played so hard he snapped the tendon on his arm and it pinged back into his elbow.  He kept playing.  30 points

6. Frank Iero

My Chem rhythm guitarist Frank Iero is in three bands, runs his own record label, fashion label and publishing house, has nine dogs – some of which are elderly rescue dogs – was investigated by the secret service after naming one of his songs I Am Going To Kill The President Of The United States, spends hours meeting and greeting fans, was named PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian of 2008 and giggles like a teenaged girl. 20 points

I could talk here about how lead guitarist Ray Toro’s hair actually defies the laws of physics (45 points) or bassist Mikey Way has written Batman for DC comics, while his singer brother, Gerard Way, won an Eisner Award for the comic he wrote (1000 points), but I think I’ve made my point.

165 out of 100 means only one thing: My Chemical Romance are the greatest band in the world.

PICTURES: My Chemical Romance live in Newcastle, UK courtesy of Mo Jojo via Flickr and Creative Commons.

Britain says ‘ET, stay home’

Dec 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, Newsroom Blog
credit: FDecomite

PHOTO: FDecomite

WHEN I was 15, my mum and I saw something strange in the night sky.

Driving along Port Rd, we both clearly saw a white pulsing light hovering over Wellington Harbour.

As the car slammed to a stop against the kerb, however, our perspective on the light changed.

Just like that, what had surely been the interstellar chariot of pan-dimensional alien explorers resolved into the Air NZ 9 o’clock from Rotorua making its descent into Wellington Airport.


In my defence, this was at the height of X-Files mania to which I was particularly and happily susceptible, but still, it was an eye opener.

One minute the truth was out there in front of our eyes, the next we were just a couple of rubes on the side of the road gawping at the pretty lights.

Maybe it’s the same perspective change the UK’s Royal Air Force experienced before deciding to shut down its 50-year-old, toll-free UFO hotline this week?

It’s the end of an era for British UFO spotters, who took the hot line’s very existence as proof that something was “going on”.

As recently as January, the Telegraph, a normally sedate UK newspaper, reported the RAF were under orders to shoot down UFO’s when they came across them.

Nice one, Biggles.  Way to roll out the intergalactic welcome mat.

The Telegraph got its story directly from Nick Pope, the UK’s top UFO expert and former civil servant.  Nick worked on the Ministry of Defence’s UFO desk for three years.

The X-Files ran for longer, but Nick had three years paid for by the British tax payer, manning the big red Alien Attack phone.

credit: Santa Rosa Old Skool

PHOTO: Santa Rosa Old Skool

Because, yes, the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom had a whole UFO desk, to go with the phone line and e-mail account.

But that was in the old days when everyone, including the British Government it seems, wanted to believe.

As any well-versed UFO nut knows, the Brits have had a singular relationship with unexplained aerial phenomena.

From crop circles – variously described as the product of alien landing patterns, messages from other dimensions and a couple of drunk blokes on a lark after a night at the pub – to alien abductions, there’s a group in the UK catering to your particular area of interest.

I once spent a day with a group of UFO investigators at an airfield in Duxford in Lincolnshire, pouring over blurry photographs of fuzzy lights in the sky, learning to tell the difference between “cigar-shaped mother ships” and “flashing ball scouts”.

Like I said, happily susceptible.

But this year prefaced their list of 582 UFO sightings in the UK with a warning about products from a company called UFO Balloons (guess what they sell) messing with their figures.

credit: Christiangeos

PHOTO: Christiangeos

It is probably important to also note the majority of the sightings seem tohave happened in the wee small hours of January 1, when I think we can all agree the good people of the UK are perhaps not at their most clear-headed.

Back home,  has only 10 sightings in New Zealand this year so far.  That’s six down on last year’s figures.

Clearly, we’re not watching the skies enough.

“Flashing Ball Scouts” over Wellington aside, seems like the idea that aliens are coming, are here or are even on their way doesn’t have the pop culture cache it had back when Fox “Spooky” Mulder was on your freaky sky watching side too.

If you see something unexplained in the night sky, contact UFOCUS and fill out one of their sighting report forms.  Just make sure it’s not the Air NZ 9 o’clock from Rotorua.

I’m an atheist and I’m OK

Dec 7th, 2009 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, Newsroom Blog

PICTURE: Atheist Christmas message

I AM an atheist.

That means I do not believe in god or angels or fairies at the bottom of the garden.

It means I accept I am all alone in the universe.

Well, except for you lot with whom I share this magnificent planet.

It means that I acknowledge – terrifying though it may be – when I die that’s the end of it.  Game over.  Thank you for playing.  Goodbye…not aufwiedersein.

Being a godless atheist, I embrace the fact that no one and nothing can help me get what I want out of life except me.

I am the alpha and omega and so are you, which is totally excellent because I answer to no one except myself.

Well, maybe I answer to my mum, but then she is fierce and pretty much everyone answers to her if she decides it is so.  She’s scary that way.

But I digress.

I’m an atheist and I’m ok.  This is the message the New Zealand Atheist Bus Campaign is bringing to the country: “There’s probably no god.  So stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

It is the first atheism awareness campaign in the history of New Zealand.  It is aimed at letting people know there is another option, many other options, besides religion and worship.

Option one is choosing not to worry about it.  Easy peasy.

It’s hard to talk about atheism without criticising the things that it is not.

Anyone who has heard or read Richard Dawkins knows the public face of atheism tends to appear utterly intolerant, dismissive and occasionally derisive towards religion and people of faith.

But it doesn’t have to be so.

I want to share something with you that I have discovered:  Option two – It is possible to be an atheist and love Jesus.

People who do are called Christian Humanists. Some prefer Christian Atheists, but whatever the label the intention is the same.

We love Jesus’ style, but we don’t really care where he came from, who his dad was, whether or not his mum was a virgin or if he came back to life after he was crucified.

I mean, Jesus was pretty cool.  His general message was: “Quit being rubbish to each other, treat people how you liked to be treated, don’t be so judgmental, think about your heart more than your stuff and you’ll be all right.”

Who doesn’t want to get behind that?

What I don’t need to do is worship him for it, assign his message some kind of divine importance or enforce his suggestions not only on myself but on others, too.

There is no good reason to.  His being divine doesn’t make his message any more or less powerful.

What does make it powerful is making a choice to follow Jesus’s general guidelines because, you know, I worked out that it feels better when I do.

Also, it was awesome when he walked on water and got everyone loaded at that party that time.  Pretty simple really.

In all seriousness though, the belief in Jesus’s god-head makes no more sense than spending the rest of your life expecting your mum to clean up after you, or sort stuff out when it doesn’t go your way, or punish you when you do stuff she doesn’t like.

In the youth of our species we probably really did need the idea that something, somewhere, had an eye out for our well being – we didn’t really know anything and it was all really blimmin’ scary.

But then Galileo discovered the true centre of the solar system, and that apple fell on that bloke Isaac’s head and the Enlightenment happened.

In that moment we as a species entered adulthood.  We packed our bags, cut the spiritual apron strings and moved out of the family home.

We realised the origins of the universe were way more awesome, complex and beautiful than could ever be contained within the confines of one relatively short book.

We realised that we could do anything we wanted and the buck stopped right here, on our very own doorsteps.

Well, some of us did.

Some of us did not.

I don’t mean that to be a value judgment.

It is what it is: I believe knowledge and truth are best uncovered by reason and logic and observation, and not by supernatural jiggery-pokery.  Some people believe some other stuff.  Point is, you get to choose.

So when you see the atheist buses, take a moment to think about what you really believe and why.

Make a choice instead of just going a long with your mum, or the Pope or whoever had the best idea last.  It’s your god-given right, after all.

Why I love It’s Not Ok! campaign

Dec 2nd, 2009 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, Newsroom Blog

PICTURE: Campaign Against Famliy Violence poster aiming the message in the right direction

THERE’S a new public awareness campaign in Wellington at the moment – billboards showing a group of chums out on the town with the tag line: “Friends make sure friends get home safe.”

They reminded me of a series of ads in the UK aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of taking unlicensed mini-cabs.

In the UK adverts, a group of girls, dressed up for a night on the town, totter towards a cab rank.

A dodgy cab driver offers one of the girls a lift.  She is reluctant, but then her girlfriends start to drag her, kicking and screaming towards the cab driver.

Cut to indistinct images of the girl struggling and crying as she is raped.

Cue tag line: If you let your friend take a mini cab you could be helping a rapist.

Subtext: Rape and rapists are inevitable.

Subtext: If you get into a situation where you may be raped it’ll be your friends or your own fault.

It’s not though.

Listen up.  This is important and no one seems to want to say this out loud let alone in an ad campaign or on a billboard:

The only person at fault in a rape is the rapist.
The only person at fault in an assault is the assaulter.
The only person at fault in a mugging is the mugger.

But are we ever likely to see the alternate advert in which the girl takes any cab she likes home and the tag line is “If she gets in your cab: Don’t rape her.”

Not likely.

That’s what was so strong in the Campaign Against Family Violence’s It’s Not Ok, adverts.

It addresses the perpetrators of the problem, and not the victims.  It puts the responsibility for the deed squarely on the shoulders of – shock of shocks – the ones who are responsible, the aggressors.

And it states simply and clearly the standards of the society it’s designed to inform: It’s not OK to take your anger out on your family.  It’s not OK.

Compare that with the message of the UK’s Cabwise advert, or even the Friends billboards: rape and violence are inevitable, if you get hurt it’s because you contribute to it.

This is what feminists call “Rape Culture”.  It is anything in society which enforces the idea that rape and violence are inevitable and victims are responsible for creating or avoiding the circumstances in which these things happen.

We like to think the days when a rape survivor could be accused of “asking for it” are long gone, but ad campaigns pointing out the ways in which you contribute rape or assault or muggings are saying just that:  If you don’t make sure your friend gets home safe you’re asking for it.

Well, it’s not working.  It’s not working and it’s not helping.

Madness is attempting the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

The It’s Not Ok campaign recognised that.  It understood the issues, recognised what hasn’t worked in the past and aimed its message straight at the people who need to make the changes in their behaviour.

Because it is not ok to knock your family about.

And it’s not OK to rape or rob or assault someone because they just happened to be alone on a street late at night.


So when are we going to start telling the people who need to hear it most?

Where is my robot buddy?

Dec 1st, 2009 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, Newsroom Blog

computer mainCOMPUTERS – they’re a bit stink really, aren’t they?

Frozen browsers, corrupted hard drives, internal fans that sound like dentist drills on overdrive – such things do not occur in the halcyon futures of Lucas and Spielberg, Banks and Heinlein.

Imaginary visions of the future have always promised one thing: wicked gadgets that work wickedly.

Marvin the depressed android from Douglas Adams’ pan-dimensionally popular Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy had a brain the size of a planet.

So far we have the I-phone;  16 gig of memory.  Woopie.

Maybe I’m being ungrateful?  I mean, laptops are pretty cool.  So are data sticks shaped like my little pony.

But they don’t work like magic.

Arthur C Clarke, the grandfather of science fiction, said: “Any sufficiently advance technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

My Maxtor 126 gig external hard-drive does not fill me with a sense of magical awe.  It is a big, grey brick of disappointment.

No, the kind of stuff I’m talking about is but a flash in the editor of New Scientist‘s mind’s eye: electronic paper, virtual data screens, HUDs beamed straight onto your retina, wet-wiring, cybernetics, Artificial Intelligence, robotics.  Yes, I am talking about ROBOTS.

Because promises were made to people like me (you know, geeks) promises in the shape of anthropomorphic computers that talk back (Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon), robots that will not only keep you company but save the galaxy while they’re at it (Star Wars), robots that try to kill you (Westworld, Terminator, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner (although, they’re technically Androids…), love you (Bicentennial Man, The Silver Metal Lover, Saturn 13), take you over and use you as ginormous fleshy batteries (The Matrix).

Promises, my friends, promises which have not been kept.

Ainu the robotic dog is so not going to cut it. But we may not have to wait too much longer.

In Japan, not content with developing the first humanoid robot that can dance, run and sometimes (see below) get up stairs, they’re now working on a robotic head which mimics human emotions. Westworld, here I come!

Sadly, Asimo the Robot is far from perfect.  But at Toyota they’ve got robots to play you music and get you where you need to go.

Seriously, Japan is the future of robot magic.

Just take a look at the 60-foot Gundam towering over Tokyo like some kind of giant futuristic propaganda statue. We welcome our Robot overlords!

At the same time, designers in London are planning for the day we let our household ‘bots do everything for us.

Meantime, right here in Wellington boffins at Industrial Research Lab in conjunction with local artist Katherine Ngatai are experimenting with artificial muscle fibres that will pulse in response to your proximity. Gross!  In all the best ways!

Yes, Robbie the Robot is on the horizon, waving and offering to mix you a martini while saving you from alien attack.

It’s not much to hang on to, but it’ll be enough to keep the ennui at bay the next time Windows Explorer decides it can’t find my document.

Catcalling and whatnot

Jan 13th, 2009 | By | Category: Features, Newsroom Blog

To: Barbarians and Suits alike
Re: Catcalling and whatnot

I am having a sexist day. Fed up with an increasingly rude and vulgar species of brute I am writing you this letter.

On a daily basis I am woken to the sound of construction outside my door.

This I am not against entirely. I actually find sawdust and polyurethane smell like my dad and are reminiscent of afternoons spent collecting screws, nails and wood scraps to classic hits of “the 70’s, 80’s and today.”

An ex-boyfriend used to provide me with wine and ciggies while I waited for him to finish a roof/deck/fence. I’m sure he and his workmates were easily amused by my precarious entrance in daisy dukes and wedges and again when I tottered off to the porta-loo.

I am familiar with smoko, gib board and the Phillips head, but now I encounter the urban legend that is The Sleazy Construction Worker.

I wake up to a chorus of power tools and get the full experience when I step outside. The mirror is deemed unnecessary as they usually let me know how good I look upon emerging through the dusty haze of the street.

At times I feel I am a cliché in motion – for these brutes, it’s expected of them to ogle and leer, whistle and cheer, assert themselves of masculinity and animal instinct in one swift jibe. But in all reality, they are not the sole perpetrators of barbaric courting rituals.

The second most prevalent must surely be el desperado hollering from moving vehicle. What do they really expect? Someone will respond to the sweet praises of sleaze by chasing the car to find this potential Mr Right? Perhaps they are a kind of true romantic and vision a television-lit dinner of KFC and a 6-pack of Woodstock shared at his mum’s house.

Men in bars are no better. Alcohol is a favoured social lubricant that allows men to slip through the bars of decorum and lose the shackles of charm and chivalry.

Apparently, it’s now okay to direct someone’s face to smile.
I’m dead serious, “Smile.”
Anything else Casanova?
What happened to buying a lady a drink? That will make me smile.
I have come to the conclusion that these men believe I have simply forgotten to smile. On the contrary, it is difficult to retain my pageant-best while men are pushing in front of me at the bar. Anyway, my face sits like that.
I don’t tell you to “be better looking” or “buy”
I don’t emoticon on demand.

Yours Sincerely,

Tits and Ass, Wellington

PS: Go to McDonalds. Smiles are free.

NewsWire scores its first front page splash

Jul 2nd, 2008 | By | Category: Newsroom Blog has produced its first front page story in a community newspaper, even before the website is officially launched.

On July 1, the Hutt News featured an article highlighting dangers for cyclists in the Hutt Valley, written by Whitireia journalism student Sandra Dickson.

Two deaths drive home vulnerability of cyclists focused on cycle repair shops, who fix up to eight bikes per week damaged in accidents with motorists.

NewsWire contributors expect this will be the first of many front page scoops by Whitireira journalism students.

The Newsroom Blog

Jun 28th, 2008 | By | Category: Newsroom Blog

Welcome to the Newsroom Blog! The blog that will give you a behind the scenes look at how Whitireia students produce the news you read on

In the coming days and weeks this section of the site will share a candid view of what’s going on in our brand new newsroom on Cuba Street.

Stay tuned! You can subscribe to the Newsroom Blog by checking out our RSS Feed page.